NM educators share concerns with Secretary Duncan

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In a Sept. 9 meeting with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan during his Southwest tour stop in Santa Fe, N.M., AFT New Mexico President Stephanie Ly made it clear that the union has a plan to build a world-class education system.

In 2012, New Mexico educators developed a vision and blueprint for a world-class education system in the state by bringing together experienced educators and using current and relevant research to identify solutions to improve student learning. The blueprint contains four pillars: professionalism and respect, students as individuals, the right to succeed, and sufficient funding. "This approach is about using the best research available and the know-how and dedication of educators to equip our schools and students with the resources and programs that will help them be successful in the 21st century," Ly says. "It includes providing early education opportunities and providing students with the resources that they need throughout their education."

Ly also notes that the Common Core State Standards provide an exciting opportunity for educators and students. Implemented correctly, the standards are about promoting complex and creative thinking skills. However, she has serious concerns about mandates from the New Mexico Public Education Department that are making it difficult to implement the Common Core standards. To date, only 7,000 out of approximately 25,000 educators have been trained on the new standards. Meanwhile, school districts are focused on managing the confusion and distress caused by the department's teacher evaluation rules and are struggling with the A-F school grading system.

Ly told Duncan that educators have asked Hanna Skandera, the Public Education Department's secretary-designate, to delay the high stakes attached to standardized tests in order to allow educators time to adopt the Common Core standards, but Skandera has declined. "Focusing on the high stakes instead of the Common Core State Standards is a huge missed opportunity for our state," Ly says. "High-stakes testing has a proven record of doing harm to the well-rounded education that our students deserve. Parents, community members and business leaders are also outraged that the over-focus on testing is hurting our students and our state." 

On Sept. 6, educators also filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in the New Mexico Second Judicial District Court seeking to stop the evaluation rule and claiming that Secretary-Designate Skandera violated her statutory authority.

Something needs to be done to put the focus back on students, learning and New Mexico's future, Ly says. "Community members, parents and educators are standing up for the kids. We appreciated the opportunity to speak personally with Secretary Duncan and to share with him our vision for building a world-class education system in New Mexico." [AFT New Mexico press release]

 September 9, 2013